That was quick, winter is almost over. Yup, it’s time to get your head on straight and start to focus on the outdoors once again. There are some basic late-winter tasks that you can get a head start on now. For all you citrus owners, fertilize your trees and container-grown citrus now. Pay attention to the weather reports, and find the day before an expected rain shower and that’s when you fertilize. The fertilizer does the trees no good if it isn’t watered into the ground, so why not let Mother Nature do it for you?
Now is the time to do all that pruning you’ve been wanting to since last fall. For overgrown shrubs, you can remove one-third of the top growth without endangering the life of the plants. This does not mean to get out those hedge clippers and make cotton balls and lollipops out of your shrubs and trees. A proper pruning job leaves trees and shrubs looking like smaller versions of themselves. Hand-pruning may be required, so sharpen your tools and do one plant at a time. Speaking of hedges by the way, be sure to check for holes or areas that have worn away over winter and consider purchasing more hedging plants for your garden to reinstate those boundaries and keep them full of colour.
Nurseries and garden centers will be soon filled with cool-weather flowering annuals, so think about sprucing up those containers around your patio with pansies and snapdragons. Hopefully, your containers are high enough above ground level so as not to entice our desert bunnies to lunch! Be sure to clean out last year’s soil, replacing it with new potting soil to give your plantings the best chance of providing you with bountiful blossoms until summer arrives. If your containers are in the shade, treat yourself to some gorgeous succulents.
Are you thinking about veggies for the coming season? I have it on good information from your local Tucson Organic Gardeners [tucsonorganicgardeners.org] that you can start planting certain vegetables around March 1. There is always the possibility of a frost until mid-March, but covering the seedlings at night should prevent any harm. The vegetables they suggest to plant from seed include bush beans, sweet corn, cucumber, summer squash and, my favorite, tomatoes. OMG. There is nothing like tomatoes pulled from the vine and popped right into your mouth. Smaller varieties will do better as they have a shorter maturity date than those big beefy tomatoe, and the May-June heat wreaks havoc on tomato plants.
Prepare your vegetable bed now with good soil amendment and general fertilizer or manure so all is ready when you are good to go for planting. Tomatoes grow quite well in a suitably large container and this is how I grow mine each year. Once again, I change out the soil from last year so my tomatoes are growing in healthy “new” soil. I prefer the heirloom types, purple-skinned cherry tomatoes and those succulent yellow grape tomatoes. Yum!
Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website: http://saddlebrookemastergardeners.org/ for all up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459.
Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.